North Carolina State has had eight players selected in the past two drafts after having 10 picked in the preceding four drafts. Talent hasn't necessarily been a problem of late with the Wolfpack, but the results on the field didn't match, which is why coach Tom O'Brien was fired and replaced by Dave Doeren, who was hired away from Northern Illinois.
NCSU has had a player selected no later than the third round in each of the past three drafts, but it doesn't appear anyone will be picked that early in May. Still, this team has some draft-worthy players on both sides of the ball. It isn't going to win the ACC's Atlantic Division, but a third-place finish is within reach if coaches can find a quarterback to replace Mike Glennon (a third-round selection by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 2013 NFL Draft). O'Brien used a pro-style attack, but Doeren wants to run a variation of the spread. The rushing attack must improve after finishing 111th in the nation last season. The schedule is kind: There are eight home games and there is only one truly tough road contest (Florida State).
Top senior prospects
DE Darryl Cato-Bishop: Cato-Bishop (6-foot-3, 266 pounds) has a combined 12 sacks in the past two seasons despite not being all that quick. He is a physical player with a good motor. Cato-Bishop, who had 10.5 tackles for loss last season, saw time at tackle in 2011. His dad, Darryl Bishop, became the first black basketball player at Kentucky in 1969 as a walk-on. He eventually left the basketball team and played football -- he holds the school's career record with 14 interceptions.
OT Rob Crisp: He was a consensus national top-50 prospect as a high school senior and signed with the hometown Wolfpack. But Crisp (6-7, 298) has been hampered by injuries and inconsistency. He hasn't lived up to the hype. He began his true freshman season as the starting left tackle but his playing time was cut considerably after the opener (more than half his snaps for the season came in that first game). He played well as a sophomore right tackle in 2011, then missed five games last season at left tackle with a lower back injury. He has the physical tools to contend for all-league and even All-America honors. Can he remain healthy and consistent?
OLB D.J. Green: He was suspended by the NCAA last season for taking a banned supplement but should start this season. Green (6-4, 228), who was a high school safety, has good size and speed, but he needs to be more physical. He started seven games at linebacker in 2011 but was hampered that season by abdominal and foot injuries. He played safety as a true freshman in 2010.
CB Dontae Johnson: Johnson (6-2, 195) was a first-time starter at corner last season after spending his first two seasons at safety. He is a physical player who started two games at linebacker in 2011. Johnson, who lacks elite speed, was fifth on the team with 70 tackles last season and is active in run support. He had eight pass breakups last season but his coverage skills remain a question -- he has zero picks in his career.
WR Quintin Payton: He didn't do much until last season, when he was second on the Wolfpack in receptions (51) and first in receiving yards (798). Payton (6-3, 212) has good size and average speed, but still seems to be learning the intricacies of the position. He did a nice job using his size last season.
TE Asa Watson: The new staff likes Watson's all-around game, and he should have a much bigger role in the offense this season. Watson (6-3, 237) has only 26 career catches, for 310 yards and a score, but he runs well and has good hands. In addition, he is a solid blocker. He missed the 2011 season after undergoing two outpatient procedures to cure an accelerated heartbeat. Doctors have said his condition doesn't hamper his ability to play football. Watson already has graduated with a degree in communications and is playing this fall as a grad student. His brother, Ben, is a tight end with the New Orleans Saints.
OG Alex Barr: He was a backup tackle as a redshirt freshman last season but is expected to start at guard this season. Barr's size (6-7, 326) is a plus, and coaches like his ability as a run blocker.
CB Juston Burris: He started five games last season as a redshirt freshman at nickel back and should be a starting corner this fall. He showed great promise last season, finishing with 44 tackles, three interceptions and six pass breakups. Burris (6-1, 203) has good size and instincts, but he lacks elite speed and eventually could move to safety.
OT Tyson Chandler: He's a massive junior (6-7, 360) who is expected to start at right tackle this season. He started three times on the left side and nine times on the right side last fall. He was a touted defensive tackle in high school in New Jersey and at prep school in Virginia. He has good strength and can be a road grader as a run blocker. His pass protection is a concern, and he could move to guard at the next level.
NT Thomas Teal: He was a first-time starter last season as a sophomore and did a commendable job, finishing with 35 tackles and 7.5 tackles for loss. Teal (6-1, 312) held up well against the run and proved to be a disruptive force at times. Teal had a big game in an upset of Florida State, with six tackles and two tackles for loss. He missed seven games in 2011 season after breaking his foot in the season opener.
QB Pete Thomas: Thomas started for two seasons at Colorado State before transferring and sitting out last season. Thing is, he decided on N.C. State when O'Brien was coach, and the offensive scheme change isn't necessarily a fit for his skill set. Thomas (6-6, 234) has a big arm and fits best in a pro-style system. He had trouble with his decisionmaking at Colorado State, where he threw 21 picks and 18 touchdowns. But 13 of those picks came when he was a true freshman in 2010. Thomas has the physical tools. He just needs to show he knows how to use them.
WR Bryan Underwood: He was second in the ACC with 10 touchdown catches last season, when he had 44 receptions for 620 yards. Underwood (5-9, 177), a junior, has big-time speed and is a dangerous deep threat, but the offensive scheme change might hamper his production. He has to show he is a solid all-around receiver. He had arthroscopic knee surgery in August 2012, but didn't miss any games.
Three must-see games of 2013
Sept. 19 vs. Clemson: Burris and Johnson will have their hands full trying to stop Clemson's high-powered passing attack. If either can slow Tigers WR Sammy Watkins, national attention will follow. Conversely, Watson, Payton and Underwood will be going against a rebuilt Clemson secondary.
Oct.26 at Florida State: This will be another test for the Wolfpack secondary. FSU is deep and talented at defensive end, giving Crisp and Chandler a chance to shine. In addition, FSU has the best secondary in the ACC, meaning this could be a tough day for N.C. State's receivers.
Nov. 2 vs. North Carolina: Crisp vs. UNC DE Kareem Martin should be fun to watch. Can Cato-Bishop get to Tar Heels QB Bryn Renner? UNC OT James Hurst is a good one. UNC snapped a five-game losing streak in the series by scoring on a 74-yard punt return with 13 seconds left last season.